/assets/images/headerlogos/TVWEEK-logo.svg
Neighbours

EXCLUSIVE: Jackie Woodburne and Alan Fletcher reveal their "devastation" over Neighbours' axing and what fans can expect from the finale

''I was shocked and devastated.''

By Laura Masia
Neighbours, as we know it today, is hard to imagine without Susan and Karl Kennedy.
After arriving in Ramsay Street in 1994, the couple have been through a lot. They've dealt with infidelity, divorce and remarriage. They've raised three of their own kids, and provided a warm home for countless lost youngsters passing through Erinsborough.
They've supported each other through illness and professional hardship. And, in true Neighbours style, they've encountered every natural disaster known to man.
But as we've watched the fictional couple overcome everything thrown at them over the past 28 years, we've come to know Karl and Susan as if they're members of our own family.
After arriving in Ramsay Street in 1994, the fictional couple have been through a lot. (Image: Ten)
For the actors bringing the roles to life, the news that Neighbours is coming to an end is heartbreaking. After hearing that UK broadcaster Channel 5 wouldn't be renewing its contract to fund the drama, Jackie Woodburne, who plays Susan, struggled to believe it.
"I was shocked and devastated," Jackie, 66, tells TV WEEK. "I was heartbroken for all the young, up-and-coming actors and crew who will no longer have this amazing training ground. I will miss this place very much."
With confirmation that filming will cease in June, it's been a bitter pill to swallow for all the cast and crew.
"It's very sad for the hundreds of people who will lose their jobs," Alan Fletcher, 64, shares. "But I'm also gutted for the millions of fans who still watch the show right around the world, who are distraught at losing their favourite show."
For Jackie, her hardest acting challenge was when Susan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. (Image: Ten)
While the pair are still coming to terms with the news, they promise the show will go out with a bang.
"I can't begin to imagine what kind of story will wrap up 38 years of TV history, but I hope it's upbeat and happy, showcases our fantastic cast and crew and leaves the fans satisfied," Jackie says.
Now that Neighbours' fate has been decided, Alan and Jackie are determined to celebrate a lifetime of "fun, laughter, drama, intense passion and humanity" that the show has brought audiences. But in the process, they can't help but reflect on where their dynamic partnership all began.
"I first met Fletch when I was cast as his sister in Cop Shop in 1982," Jackie says. "I thought he had terrific energy and was very funny. Pretty good-looking too!"
"I was heartbroken for all the young, up-and-coming actors and crew who will no longer have this amazing training ground." (Image: Ten)
It was much the same for Alan: "I was struck by her beauty and sparkling personality," he recalls. "She lit up every room she entered."
From the get-go, the actors were on the same wavelength, and their characters – two parents doing their best to raise﷯ three kids – resonated with the public.
"I think the writers managed to imbue our characters with the sort of flaws and commendable qualities that resonated with viewers," Alan remembers. "Many fans tell me they see their own parents or themselves in Karl and Susan."
Since then, they have become unstoppable collaborators who can bring life to even the most challenging of plotlines. For Jackie, her hardest acting challenge was when Susan was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
"We had to tell a dramatic story, but keep it authentic and real," Jackie explains.
"So many people live with MS, and any wrong note would have had an immediate backlash. I think we got it right, but the portrayal of Susan's journey was challenging for all of us."
While Susan struggled to tackle the impact of MS, Alan's hardest moment as Karl was a little more light-hearted.
"Karl once became a pharmaceutical rep and uncovered a dodgy scheme to sell out-of-date medicines to the Third World," Alan says with a laugh. "It was a bizarre spy story that seemed out of character to me. Gave it all I had, of course!"
Alan and Jackie are determined to celebrate a lifetime of "fun, laughter, drama, intense passion and humanity" that the show brought. (Image: Ten)
Although the pair have had all sorts of storylines, their favourite one is easy: the spicy love triangle between Susan, Karl and Izzy Hoyland (Natalie Bassingthwaighte).
"I loved that story, because it didn't follow cliched standards," Alan says.
"Karl wanted Izzy, but she certainly didn't want Karl – until she discovered she was pregnant to a dead man. So Izzy pretended to love Karl and, by the time he discovered her deception and dumped﷯ her, Izzy really was in love with Karl," Alan explains.
"It was wonderful irony and it didn't end there!"
Jackie agrees. "The big affairs and marriage break-ups were incredible to play," she says. "A standout storyline was the day Susan and Karl remarried on a boat on the Thames and Izzy turned up and had her baby there and then!"
We've come to know Karl and Susan as if they're members of our own family. (Image: Ten)
But despite Karl's serial infidelity, and fathering a child with Izzy, Susan forgave him and they eventually reunited. Over the years, fans have wondered why Susan never gave Karl a taste of his own medicine.
"I don't think anyone would have blamed Susan if she'd had a revenge affair, but that's just ﷯not how she rolls!" Jackie says with a laugh.
"Susan knows Karl better than anyone and has found a happy life with him, knowing that the past can't be changed, but that a good future is still possible because the flaws are accepted on both sides."
Behind the scenes on Neighbours lay a whole team of writers and production crew, working tirelessly to film hours of content we never thought would end. In the Aussie entertainment industry, the set became known as the ultimate training ground for young actors.
For Jackie, mentoring was a big reason she remained with the show for so long.
Their characters – two parents doing their best to raise three kids – resonated with the public. (Image: Ten)
"I love working with young actors," she says. "I love seeing them become skilled performers, and offering advice if I think it will help them. They reciprocate with their enthusiasm and energy, so I get a lot in return.
"Watching young actors have a breakthrough moment in their work and seeing the joy in their discovery is something I will always cherish."
Alan feels differently. "I've never felt like a mentor," he says. "In fact, I've﷯ learnt so much from young actors. That'﷯s the beauty of an ensemble. We all thrive through our joint work."
Now, after almost 30 years in Neighbours, Alan and Jackie are preparing themselves for a new beginning without Susan and Karl, and their professional partnership.
But for viewers at home, the farewell might be far harder. After all, we're saying goodbye to the mum and dad of Australian television.

read more from

/assets/images/headerlogos/TVWEEK-logo.svg